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Live from London Fashion Week

17 September 2009, Latest news

The LFHS campaign made quite a splash today at London Fashion Week, which kicked off this morning at Somerset House. Backed by TV campaigner Stacey Dooley, the campaign unveiled its drive for 50,000 names demanding that Gordon Brown regulate the industry.

The campaign is being endorsed by an array of people from the fashion and entertainment industry. But change won't happen unless we build up a groundswell of support from ordinary people.

So check out the terrific photos from today's event below and on our Flickr page - and make sure you show your own support by uploading your own image to our gallery.

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Stars back largest-ever ethical fashion drive

17 September 2009, Press releases

NEWS HOOKS
London Fashion Week begins
BBC television starts new Strictly Come Dancing series

WHEN? 9.00 am BST, Friday, 18 September 2009
WHERE? Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA
WHAT? War on Want launches its campaign Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops, backed by public figures including Strictly Come Dancing newcomer Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, film star Gael Garcia Bernal and designer Betty Jackson
HOW? Models parade in campaign T-shirts and carry LFHS placards at London Fashion Week's main venue, just before the first catwalk show opens there.
Stacey Dooley, a campaigner against clothes sweatshops since her appearance in the BBC television series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, will attend to support the launch.


TV campaigner Stacey joins Strictly's Jo Wood, Little Boots, Gael Garcia Bernal in sweatshops fight

War on Want and celebrities will seek public support today (Friday, 18 September) behind the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers.

As London Fashion Week opens, the charity will unveil its new drive for 50,000 names demanding that UK prime minister Gordon Brown regulates the industry.

The initiative will be backed by Jo Wood, the former wife of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, hours before viewers see her debut when the BBC series Strictly Come Dancing returns to Britain's television screens.

The Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops push is also endorsed by pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and designer Betty Jackson, who stages her own catwalk show at Somerset House in London on Sunday (20 September).

Among other backers are television personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "We want exploitation-free fashion which makes us look good without feeling bad. This campaign gives people a chance to make a real difference to the lives of workers who produce our clothes. Now is the time for the government to take action."

Models in campaign T-shirts and carrying Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops placards will launch the drive on a carpet at Somerset House minutes before the first catwalk show opens there as the curtain raiser to London Fashion Week.

Stacey Dooley, a campaigner against clothes sweatshops since her appearance in the BBC television series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, will attend to support the launch.

In the series she lived and worked alongside people in India making clothes for UK high street retailers.

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark, Tesco and Asda factories in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship.

The vast majority of employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities.Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid. Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffered verbal and physical abuse as they struggled to meet unrealistic targets. Yet the Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised.

Lina earns just £16 (1850 taka) a month, toiling 12 hours a day producing Tesco clothes.

"It is not enough," she said. "I can only afford to live in one room with my husband, two-year-old boy and mother-in-law."

Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying Primark, Tesco and Asda, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

Jo Wood, shocked by garment workers' hardship when she visited Dhaka with a further LFHS backer, fair trade fashion company People Tree, said: "The conditions that they lived in in the slums were appalling: the rubbish, the smell and the poverty. Up to six people live in a tin room on bamboo stilts above heaps of rubbish. Yet I was humbled by the people and their attitudes."

Little Boots said: "I love fashion, but loathe how some retailers deny a living wage to the people who make their clothes, condemning them to a lifetime of misery and poverty. Join the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign and help stop high street chains stitching up their workers."

Jack Dromey said: "Global economic crisis threatens the most vulnerable, with a race to the bottom. But shoppers in British high streets will not accept modern day slavery in sweatshops producing cheap clothes. Reputable retailers should insist on high standards. Rogue retailers will be exposed if they try to take advantage."

People Tree director Safia Minney said: "The government must work with local partners to review a living wage in developing countries. They must increase funding of initiatives that promote responsible consumerism and awareness and start to hold companies legally accountable for human rights violations overseas committed in their name."

Another supporter, Livia Firth, founder of ethical retailer Eco Age, said: "I love fashion and am trying my best to wear only garments from designers who are sweatshop free. I hope this campaign will encourage both consumers like me and designers and producers to always make sure that what we wear comes from a chain of production which is 100% fair."

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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Historic TUC vote on Israel boycott

17 September 2009, Latest news

The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel continues to gather momentum after receiving a historic vote of support from the British trade union movement.

On Thursday 17 September, in a landmark move, the British Trade Union movement voted to support Palestinian civil society’s BDS call.  A motion was passed at the annual Trade Union Congress by unions representing 6.5 million workers in the UK support BDS tactics against Israel until it complies with international law.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Over the last 60 years Israel has continuously acted in defiance of UN resolutions, international law and global outrage. Yet the international community has failed to act to stop Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people. Instead the British government amongst others has rewarded Israeli aggression with financial, military and diplomatic support.

"The trade union movement has taken a courageous decision today to stand up against this injustice, just like it stood up to racist South Africa in the anti-apartheid movement.

"This is a wake up call to Downing Street that there can be no more business as usual with Israel. A ban on trade with illegal settlements and a two-way arms embargo with Israel must be implemented immediately."

Boycott, divestment and sanctions were widely used in the anti-apartheid movement. Palestinian civil society in 2005 launched its call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, with the initial endorsement of over 170 Palestinian organisations including War on Want’s partners Stop the Wall. War on Want works closely with the Palestinian Boycott National Committee and has supported the BDS call since its inception.

War on Want will be speaking at a UK national gathering on BDS on 2-4 October in Northumberland.

What is boycott, divestment and sanctions?

  • Boycotts can be consumer, sporting, cultural and academic. The primary target in the UK has been the boycott of consumer goods produced in Israel. With a particular focus on fresh produce grown in Israel's illegal West Bank settlements. British supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's continue to sell settlement produce, despite doubts over the legal status of these products.
  • Divestment means targeting corporations which are complicit in the occupation and ensuring universities, pensions or other public money is not invested in such companies. War on Want in 2006 published its groundbreaking report Profiting from the Occupation, which called for divestment from companies profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
  • Sanctions are also an essential part of demonstrating disapproval for a country's actions. War on Want is currently demanding the UK government impose the sanction of an arms embargo with Israel and suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which gives Israel preferential trade access to European markets.

Image by Flickr user dannyman (Creative Commons license)
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TUC Israel vote 'wakeup call to Brown'

17 September 2009, Press releases

NEWS HOOK

War on Want welcomes historic TUC vote for Israel boycott


The anti-poverty charity War on Want today welcomed the decision by the TUC to support Palestinian civil society's call for boycott, divestment and sanction tactics to be used against Israel until it complies with international law.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Over the last 60 years Israel has continuously acted in defiance of UN resolutions, international law and global outrage. Yet the international community has failed to act to stop Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people. Instead the British government amongst others has rewarded Israeli aggression with financial, military and diplomatic support.

"The trade union movement has taken a courageous decision today to stand up against this injustice, just like it stood up to racist South Africa in the anti-apartheid movement.

"This is a wake up call to Downing Street that there can be no more business as usual with Israel. A ban on trade with illegal settlements and a two-way arms embargo with Israel must be implemented immediately."

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Boycott, divestment and sanctions were widely used in the anti-apartheid movement. Palestinian civil society in 2005 launched its call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, with the initial endorsement of over 170 Palestinian organisations. War on Want works closely with the Palestinian Boycott National Committee and has supported the BDS call since its inception.
  • Boycotts can be consumer, sporting, cultural and academic. The primary target in the UK has been the boycott of consumer goods produced in Israel. With a particular focus on fresh produce grown in Israel's illegal West Bank settlements. British supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's continue to sell settlement produce, despite doubts over the legal status of these products.
  • Divestment means targeting corporations which are complicit in the occupation and ensuring universities, pensions or other public money is not invested in such companies. War on Want in 2006 published its groundbreaking report Profiting from the Occupation, which called for divestment from companies profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
  • Sanctions are also an essential part of demonstrating disapproval for a country's actions. War on Want is currently demanding the UK government impose the sanction of an arms embargo with Israel and suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which gives Israel preferential trade access to European markets.
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A long time coming

16 September 2009, Latest news

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops is a brand new campaign that will be unmatched in size and scope. But it's also the culmination of years of hard work by War on Want and other campaigning organisations.

The anti-sweatshop movement has been truly global in reach, and radical in its aims. It's also gained a number of crucial victories along the way. For example, in 2006 parliament passed the Companies Act, a law requiring companies to report on their social and environmental impacts. Perhaps as important, the issue of sweatshop labour has grabbed the public's attention, in part because of widespread media coverage of the issue. More than ever, it seems, people are thinking about how their clothes are made.

As we take the campaign to end sweatshops to the next level, it's worth reflecting on what we've done - and how far we've come. Doing so will make that final push towards a sweatshop-free world a bit easier.

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Asda still doesn’t get it

15 September 2009, Latest news

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops logoAsda doesn't seem to grasp the concept of irony.

This week the company introduced its new Asian clothing range, which it promised would bring "authentic cultural clothing" to the UK.

You heard it right. Asda, a company that is sourcing clothes made by Bangladeshi workers earning as little as 7p an hour, is now selling 'traditional' clothing from Asia.

And here's the kicker. The company's decision stems in part from its desire to sell more clothing during Eid, the Muslim holiday that many workers in Bangladesh must skip in order to earn enough to eat.

Not everyone in the UK gets irony, apparently.

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Legislation in the UK – and abroad

14 September 2009, Latest news

save_our_lifeThe main focus of the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign is changing legislation in this country.

But as we roll out the campaign, it's important that we keep in mind developments on the ground in those countries where labour abuses occur regularly.

Our research has shown that Bangladesh has in fact enacted quite stringent legislation concerning labour violations. The Bangladeshi Labour Law of 2006 was a groundbreaking piece of legislation that strengthened safety codes and broadened worker safety nets, like maternity leave.

The problem is that the Bangladeshi government has not allocated adequate resources to enforce the law, which has allowed companies to disregard its provisions. While this reality has shaped the way we campaign in the UK, it has also had a huge impact on the work of the National Garment Workers' Federation (NGWF), a leading Bangladeshi trade union.

In recent months Bangladesh and Honduras, two countries with a large number of sweatshops, have experienced profound political and social change. The situation on the ground is still touch and go, particularly in Honduras. It will be crucial for anti-sweatshop campaigners here to keep abreast of these developments, noting where those of us in the UK can provide support.

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Activists demand action at protest against failed G20 policies

04 September 2009, Previous events

Donning masks of G20 leaders and hoisting a cash-laden throne, today War on Want and the Put People First coalition protested against Gordon Brown and the G20 for failing to take action to fundamentally reform the economic system.

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Victory for BDS campaign as arms firm axed

04 September 2009, Latest news

Norway drops Israeli company due to pressure from War on Want partner

War on Want applauds Norway's decision to exclude Elbit Systems Ltd. from the government pension fund. The move to eject the Israeli firm, which has been heavily involved in the building of the illegal Separation Wall in the Occupied West Bank, marks an important victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

In its decision to exclude the fund, Norway's Council of Ethics cited the 2004 International Court of Justice ruling that declared the Separation Wall to be illegal. Elbit Systems supplies essential components for the building of the Wall, including surveillance technology, and is also a manufacturer of weapons used to sustain Israel's Occupation of Palestine.

The move to drop Elbit comes after long campaign of pressure from the Stop the Wall campaign, a War on Want partner organisation based in the West Bank. The only Palestinian rights group to lobby Norway's pension fund, Stop the Wall targeted Elbit because of the firm's material support for the illegal Occupation and crimes against the Palestinian people. According to a briefing paper written by Stop the Wall, Elbit supplied arms to Israel in the full knowledge that these weapons would be used against civilians in Palestine and Lebanon.

Elbit's exclusion from Norway's state pension is the latest victory for the BDS campaign, which calls on companies and consumers to cease financial and economic support for Israel until it complies with international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians. Earlier this year the Church of England divested from Caterpillar, a company which sells bulldozers that were being used to destroy Palestinian homes, schools, orchards and olive groves.

War on Want is now asking that the UK government follow Norway's example and divest from Elbit. The arms manufacturer has won contracts from the UK Ministry of Defence worth millions of pounds to build unmanned drone aircraft for British military forces. These aircraft and other weaponry being developed by Elbit have been tested against civilian populations in Lebanon and Palestine.

As part of its Stop Arming Israel campaign, War on Want has been leading the call for a two-way embargo on arms sales between the UK and Israel.

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Brown slated on G20 crisis talks

04 September 2009, Press releases

PICTURE/AUDIO/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY

NEWS HOOK

London, Friday-Saturday 4-5 September 2009
Finance ministers from G20 group of the world's most powerful economies meet in London
"Stop letting money rule the world" protest by campaigners


‘UK blocks to reform undermine global action'

British prime minister Gordon Brown today faced heavy criticism for his resistance to reforms on bank bonuses, tax dodging and the financial system amid the global economic crisis.

The charity War on Want launched the attack as British chancellor Alistair Darling and other finance ministers gather for London talks in the G20 group of the world's most powerful economies.

War on Want slams Brown's refusal to take action on bank regulation, including on bonuses for UK bank executives, which reports suggest will reach a record £4 billion this year, despite bailouts costing billions of taxpayers' money.

The charity also denounces his refusal to instigate British government steps against tax dodges that cost developing countries an estimated £250 billion a year and £100 billion a year for Britain - enough to double funding for the health service.

Brown faces further censure over rejecting the proposal by Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, for a tax on foreign currency transactions which would raise billions of pounds for developing countries.

And the PM is condemned for sticking to free market policies that War on Want says caused the crisis and now threaten to throw millions more people into unemployment in poor countries and Britain.

The International Labour Organisation estimates 239 million people worldwide will be jobless this year - up a third compared to the 2007 level - with youth unemployment rising by up to 18 million to 90 million.

War on Want executive director John Hilary said: "Gordon Brown is becoming the abominable no man. Each time there is a new proposal that would reform the economic system, the UK government says no to it. It is time that the PM let go of the failed policies which caused the crisis in favour of measures that will ensure a fair system for all."

CONTACT

Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

NOTE TO EDITORS

WHEN?

10.30-11.15 am BST, Friday 4 September 2009

WHERE?

North junction between Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe, London EC3 3DQ‎ (view of City landmark the Gherkin skyscraper)

WHAT?

War on Want campaigners and others from the Put People First coalition, in G20 leaders' masks and suits, hold cash-laden throne, warning "Stop letting money rule the world". The activists, backed by money-themed music, will then go on a walking tour of City institutions which the coalition blames for the crisis along with the G20 leaders. The coalition is demanding greater investment in public services, new jobs through a green global economy and steep emission cuts for developed nations at the UN summit in Copenhagen later this year. Put People First includes over 100 development charities, trade unions, environmental, faith and anti-poverty groups.

 

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G20 urged to avert global disaster

02 September 2009, Press releases

PICTURE/AUDIO/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY

NEWS HOOK
London, Friday-Saturday 4-5 September 2009

Finance ministers from G20 group of the world's most powerful economies meet in London

"Stop letting money rule the world" call by campaigners in G20 leaders' masks and suits, backed by money-themed music


Activists warn of job losses and climate chaos

WHEN?
10.30-11.15 am BST, Friday 4 September 2009

WHERE?
North junction between Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe, London EC3 3DQ‎ (view of City landmark the Gherkin skyscraper)

WHAT?
Campaigners from the Put People First coalition, in G20 leaders' masks and suits, hold cash-laden throne, warning "Stop letting money rule the world". The activists, backed by money-themed music, will then go on a walking tour of City institutions which the coalition blames for the crisis along with the G20 leaders.

Protestors wearing G20 leaders' masks and suits next week (Friday, 4 September) will call for new policies to protect the livelihoods of millions of people amid the growing world economic crisis. (see attached briefing)

Campaigners from the coalition Put People First, representing over 10 million people, will hold aloft a throne laden with huge bags of cash and unfurl a banner calling on the G20 to "Stop letting money rule the world", backed by money-themed music.

The protest will come as British chancellor Alistair Darling and other finance ministers begin two-day London talks in the run-up to the G20 leaders' summit on the crisis in Pittsburgh on 24-25 September.

The coalition says that by sticking to the free market practices which caused the global slump, the G20 would condemn millions more people to unemployment and condemn the planet to devastating climate change.

The International Labour Organisation estimates 239 million people worldwide will be jobless this year - up a third compared to the 2007 level - with youth unemployment rising by up to 18 million to 90 million.

But the coalition says such job losses can be avoided by new economic policies designed to put people before corporate profits.

Put People First calls for a crackdown on tax havens. Britain loses an estimated £100 billion a year in tax dodges - enough to double funds for the health service. And unpaid tax costs the developing world £250 billion a year.

The coalition is also demanding greater investment in public services, new jobs through a green global economy and steep emission cuts for developed nations at the UN summit in Copenhagen later this year.

John Hilary, executive director at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: "The G20 has done nothing to address the root causes of the global economic crisis. Despite the fact that lax regulation of banks led to the financial meltdown, G20 leaders are now calling for more deregulation of financial markets through the Doha round of world trade talks. It is time to call an end to the free market fundamentalism which has caused so much poverty and suffering in the world."

Jubilee Debt Campaign director Nick Dearden said: "The financial system has delivered economic and environmental chaos. No wonder that people and governments around the world are demanding change. But change that works for all countries and people will only come when all countries and people are involved in setting the rules. We need a radical democratisation of the economic and financial system - a global economy of the people, by the people, for the people."

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: "The recession isn't over for the millions of people here and around the world who are without jobs or worried about losing them. There is more to be done by the world's leaders and finance ministers if we are to build a sustainable recovery with decent work for all. Getting back to business as usual isn't good enough because it just means another recession round the corner."

Asad Rehman, senior climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "Developed nations are responsible for most of the carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution - and have grown very rich in doing so. Developing nations are far smaller per capita polluters, yet many of them are at the forefront of the devastating consequences of climate change. Rich industrialised countries must stop playing Russian roulette with the future of the planet and make a clear commitment to compensate poorer nations for the full costs of adapting to climate change, and fund the transition to low carbon infrastructure in the developing world."

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • After the picture/audio/interview opportunity, campaigners in masks and suits, backed by money-themed music, will tour City institutions which the coalition blames for the crisis along with the G20 leaders. Activists will meet outside Liverpool Street rail station next to McDonalds, 50 Liverpool Street London London EC2M 7PD. Tour stops include: Royal Bank of Scotland, 250 Bishopsgate, EC2M4 AA. ETF Securities, 2 London Wall Buildings London, London EC2M 5UU. European Climate Exchange, 62 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AW. International Financial Services London, 29-30 Cornhill, London EC3V 3NF. Barclays Bank, 54 Lombard Street, London EC3P 3AH. Willis Building, 51 Lime Street, London EC3M 7DQ.
  • Put People First includes over 100 development charities, trade unions, environmental, faith and anti-poverty groups.

CONTACTS

Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728Nick Dearden, Jubilee Debt Campaign director (+44) (0)20 7324 4722 (+44) (0)7932 335464
Liz Chinchen, head of TUC European Union and international relations (+44) (0)20 7467 1325 or (+44) (0)7788 715261
Neil Verlander, Friends of the Earth press officer (+44) (0)20 7566 1649 or (+44) (0)7712 843209
Kate Blagojevic, World Development Movement press officer (+44) (0)20 7820 4913 or (+44) (0)7711 875345
Jesse Griffiths, Bretton Woods Project coordinator (+44) (0)20 7561 7546 or (+44) (0)7968 041747

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Members of South African social movement set to visit UK

27 August 2009, Latest news

This week members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM), a shack-dweller movement based in Durban, South Africa and a War on Want partner organisation, will travel to the UK for a series of workshops, actions and talks.

A leading South African social movement fighting for the rights of displaced shack dwellers, ABM will be traveling both to London and Manchester for a range of exciting events beginning this week. Among the events that ABM will take part in are a panel discussion on the provision of services in Jacob Zuma's South Africa and a Climate Camp workshop on the impact of the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Olympics on local communities. A complete list of events can be found below and at the organisation's website.

ABM in the UK
Manchester

Event: The Right to Stay Put 

When: Friday 28 and Saturday 29 August, 10.00-17.00
Where: University of Manchester
Contact: autonomousgeographies@gmail.com

London

Workshop: Climate Camp workshop with Corporate Watch - Olympics and World Cup

When: Sunday 30 August, 16.30-18.00
Where: To be announced
Contact: info@climatecamp.org.uk

Panel discussion: Will Zuma deliver? The struggle for basic services in South Africa

When: Wednesday 2 September, 18.00-20.00
Where: Khalili lecture theatre, SOAS
Contact: WWillems@waronwant.org

Event: Benefit night at the Belgrade Road Social Centre

When: Friday 4 September, 18.00-02.00
Where: The Belgrade Road Social Centre, Dalston
Contact: 2abelgraderoad@riseup.net

Public Meeting: London Coalition Against Poverty

When: Saturday 5 September, 3.00-5.30
Where: Navarino Mansions Community Hall, Dalston Lane
Contact: londoncoalitionagainstpoverty@gmail.com

For general information about this visit by Abahlali baseMjondolo please contact Matt Birkinshaw

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Brown pressed to tax banks for poor

27 August 2009, Press releases

Activists welcome call for Tobin tax

The anti-poverty charity War on Want today demanded that British prime minister Gordon Brown acts on backing for a tax on foreign currency transactions by Lord Turner, chairman of the Finance Services Authority.

Executive director John Hilary said: "War on Want welcomes Lord Turner's support for a Tobin tax to curb bank profits and bonuses. As well as restraining bank excesses, such a tax could generate billions for developing countries to use in the fight against poverty. We call on Gordon Brown to implement this tax as an urgent measure amid the growing world economic crisis."

A currency transactions tax at 0.005% on the four major currencies of sterling, the euro, the US dollar and the Japanese yen would generate £20 billion annually, according to research published by War on Want and the United Nations University.

A similar tax on sterling alone would generate £3 billion a year.

In the last decade War on Want has led the campaign for a Tobin tax.

It is named after the American economist James Tobin, who first proposed the tax over 30 years ago.

Hilary chairs the Stamp Out Poverty campaign, successor to the Tobin Tax Network.

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Noisy protest outside the opening of new Bristol Primark

20 August 2009, Previous events

On Thursday 13 August, War on Want joined other labour rights protestors in a demonstration outside the opening of the massive new Primark store in Bristol.

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Persecuted by the government, informal workers in Malawi take a stand

20 August 2009, Latest news

Last week the repression of street traders in Malawi turned violent, as municipal officials in the city of Blantyre burned down vending stalls at a popular market. The Malawi Union for the Informal Sector (MUFIS), a War on Want partner organisation, is helping these informal workers gain compensation for their losses - and challenging the systematic persecution of those living on the margins of society.

On the morning of 11 August, street traders in the city of Blantyre in Malawi discovered that their stalls at a main city market had been burned to the ground by city officials. The stalls were the main source of income for these workers, who are part of the country's informal economy, a growing sector which supports millions of Malawians. The majority of the stalls that were set alight were run by women and youth with few job prospects.

Since adopting a series of liberal trade policies in the 1990s, Malawi's economy has suffered. Unable to compete with foreign imports, the Malawian industrial sector virtually collapsed, thrusting millions of workers into the informal economy, where they sell everything from handmade clothing to spare motor parts. Only 12% of the Malawian labour force is currently employed in the formal sector.

The workers' rights group MUFIS was founded in 2001 to support the rapidly growing number of workers in the informal economy. Without formal representation or bargaining power, many informal workers were being deprived of their basic rights and faced constant harassment. Through their national mobilisation campaign, MUFIS has grown considerably since its founding. The group now has 52 branches across Malawi and represents 6,500 workers. In addition to training street traders on their rights, MUFIS has also developed a platform for disenfranchised workers to express their concerns to policymakers.

In the days since the fire at Blantrye market, MUFIS officials have called on the government to compensate informal workers for their losses. MUFIS is also demanding protection for all informal workers from health hazards as well as acts of violence from government officials. War on Want stands by MUFIS's call for the protection of street traders, and expresses its support for all Malawian informal workers fighting for their rights.

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